Want to become an Economist? Know How!

March 23, 2022
MA Economics - general

Guide to become an Economist.

Currently, there are less than 0.2 percent of economists in India working for its 1.2 billion+ population. Going by the projection of various noteworthy careers in economics in India, India is going to be one of the three largest economies in the upcoming 20 years. This translates into the growing per capita income in the next two decades and thus a never-seen-before need for qualified Economists. 

Economists are professionals who study the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services by collecting and analyzing data, researching trends, and evaluating economic issues.

Let’s take a look at the steps to become an Economist:

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (Three Years)

After completing schooling, prospective economists need to earn a bachelor’s degree. While there is some flexibility in which type of undergraduate degree an economist can have (e.g., accounting, finance, mathematics), majoring in economics is obviously the strongest option for someone committed to the subject.

Bachelor’s degrees in economics come in two main categories: the bachelor of arts in economics (BA) and the bachelor of science in economics (BS). BA degrees in economics tend to focus on theory and social sciences. On the other hand, BS degrees in economics, focus on applying business methods and economic theory to real-world problems, prioritizing mathematical and statistical knowledge. 

While neither degree is, in a vacuum, better than the other, a BS degree in economics may provide a stronger foundation for future graduate-level study.

Several economics undergraduate programs, both BA and BS, offer dual-degree options that pair with another field like mathematics or computer science. And even within a singular economics degree, many universities allow students to specialize in a particular area of focus by adding a concentration in behavioral economics, healthcare, finance, or environmental policy. Building a solid base of foundational knowledge, while exploring possible concentrations and other areas of focus through free electives, can prepare an economist to select the next steps of their journey.

Step 2: Research Internship Opportunities (One to Two Years, Optional)

Internships may be unpaid positions, but they’re a solid way to gain relevant experience applying the skills you’ve recently learned. Many of today’s economist internships ask that applicants have a working understanding of Python, R, and other data visualization software. These internships also include working alongside full-time employees, and working at the full pace of operations, which provides extremely valuable hands-on experience for later applications to graduate programs or other full-time jobs.

Some internships require applicants to be currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program, but they may also subsidize part of an intern’s tuition. While this is an entirely optional step, the final years of an undergraduate degree up to the first year of a graduate degree program are the ideal time to begin researching and applying for economist internships.

Step 3: Pursue a Master’s Degree (Two Years)

In a competitive market, differentiation is critical. And for economists, a master’s degree is now almost as standard as a bachelor’s degree. Economists have two general options here: an MBA with an economics concentration or a master’s degree in economics (either MA or MS).

A master’s degree in economics, either a master of science (MS) or a master of arts (MA), is a deep and purist approach to graduate-level study for economists.

In any event, an MS or MA in economics is the ideal time for a prospective economist to choose which sub-discipline of economics they wish to work in. 

Step 4: Gain Work Experience (Timeline Varies)

After earning a master’s degree, the training wheels are off and it’s time to enter the workforce. 

Those interested in working for the private sector will be looking in major metropolitan areas for opportunities with employers like oil and gas companies, utility companies, large financial institutions, and real estate firms. Those more ideologically aligned will seek out work with green energy businesses, think tanks, governments, universities, and nonprofits.

Step 5: Consider a PhD (Four to Seven Years, Optional)

For the highly dedicated economists who aren’t afraid of academia, a PhD is an option to consider. Classes, seminars, and workshops in a PhD program will entirely depend upon one’s selected area of focus. But in every case, it’s incredibly important to have a solid mathematical ability, generally scoring better than the 90th percentile on the quantitative portion of the GRE.

In an economics PhD program, you can select what to research from a wide range of options, and you’ll be given relative autonomy in completing your studies and dissertations over the intervening years. The most popular areas of focus for economics PhD students are macroeconomics, labor economics, microeconomic theory, industrial organization, and development. Despite the autonomy, you will most likely be required to teach at the university for some time while completing your PhD. This means an intensive work and study schedule that you may need to take authorship over. Disciplined, self-starting multitasking is a must.

The good news is that for all this work, you are practically guaranteed a job; those holding a PhD in economics have a very low unemployment rate. Those with an economics PhD can teach at the university level and are counted as experts in their field. Outside of academia, economists with PhDs work for some of the biggest and highest impact organizations: the International Monetary Fund, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, RAND, and the World Bank.

Step 6: Join Professional Societies and Achieve Certification (Timeline Varies)

Once you’ve collected your degrees, it’s time to mix with your economist colleagues through professional societies. These organizations host conferences, talks, and think tanks that keep the academic rigor alive well into the late stages of an economist’s career. They also act as a broker of standards for professional excellence.

Economists are responsible for advising businesses and/or organizations regarding various aspects of economics. These professionals regularly conduct surveys, collect data, and analyze findings using mathematical models, statistical techniques, and software. It’s also their job to present all relevant results to stakeholders. As a result, they must be proficient with the creation of reports, tables, and charts. Additionally, economists often interpret and forecast market trends, advise their employers on a number of economic topics, and recommend solutions to potential economic problems. It is also common for professionals in this field to write articles for academic journals, as well as other media outlets.

Most economists work independently in office settings, although collaboration with other economists and statisticians is sometimes necessary. It’s not uncommon for these professionals to work from home, while others may have to travel as part of their jobs. Work schedules can vary, but the majority of economists work full time. Some positions do require overtime. Many professionals in this field also offer consultation services to other businesses and organizations part-time.

Learning to think like an economist can add a great deal of value in your life, and can make confusing or difficult decisions easier. One way to learn economic thinking is to enroll in a master’s program that teaches you economic thinking and how to apply it in everyday life.

Edusure School helps students in taking the first step towards becoming an Economist by providing Online Coaching for MA Economics Entrance for institutes of repute such as Delhi School of Economics (DSE), Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Madras School of Economics (MSE), Gokhale Institute of Economics and Political Science (GIPE), Indira Gandhi Institute of Development and Research (IGIDR), Central University of Hyderabad. Edusure’s list of top-ranked Colleges for MA Economics helps students discover the various options they have.